No one really wants to find themselves in a position where it’s necessary to hire an attorney. But, these things happen, and sometimes you need the power of the law on your side.
Whether you’re hiring an attorney for criminal defense, estate planning or business negotiation, there are certain expectations that come with this service.
The experience of a well-versed attorney does not always come cheap, so here’s what you should expect when it comes time to hire an attorney.
Need to Hire an Attorney? Here’s What You Should Expect
Just because an attorney is bar qualified and has the experience, it does not always make them good at their job.
The outcome of many legal cases can be considered subjective. What one attorney views as a positive outcome may not be viewed the same way by a client. Especially when it comes to personal injury cases – learn more on that, here.
Most client complaints tend to center on four main areas of an attorney’s service: communication, ethics, competence and lawyer’s fees.
If you are hiring an attorney and paying for a service, these are five basic expectations you should have:
1. An In-Depth Knowledge of the Law
This goes without saying, but every attorney that offers a legal service needs to have an in-depth understanding of the law they specialize in.
Yes, every single lawyer must complete law school and pass their bar exams in order to practice. But in essence, these are only bare minimum requirements.
In today’s world, nearly every area of the law has become a specialty. If your attorney claims to specialize in a certain type of law, their knowledge should be unparalleled.
To add to this, they should also have a clear and defined understanding of the application of the law. In other words, how the law is applied in practice versus what is written in statutes and regulations.
2. Clear Lines of Communication
When it comes to any type of working relationship, communication is key to a successful and healthy relationship. This is especially important when it comes to legal cases.
You should expect clear, open, and honest lines of communication from your attorney at all times, throughout all stages of your case. If you are kept in the dark, you’ll begin to assume the worst.
Clean lines of communication will help to reduce your amount of stress as you’ll have a good understanding of the progress of your case.
From the outset, your attorney should clearly explain all your legal options, their legal strategy, and provide a timeline of events. They should also check in on you regularly and always return phone calls and answer questions in a prompt, timely manner.
However, it’s important to bear in mind that it’s common to hear less from an attorney who is on trial. This being said, they should make an effort to communicate with you as and when they can.
3. Attorney Competence
As mentioned, just because your attorney is qualified does not always mean they will do a good job on your case. Unfortunately, bar associations are only tasked with monitoring attorney ethics and behavior. They are not tasked with assessing how ”good” an attorney’s service really is.
The outcome of a case and its level of success is subjective. But your attorney should always do their best to manage your expectations from the start.
Bear in mind that if your attorney makes a blatant mistake in handling your case, you have every right to sue for malpractice.
4. Upstanding Attorney Ethics
Every single state has its own set of ethical laws which attorneys must follow very closely. This standard of ethics must be upheld by your attorney throughout every step of your case.
Some of these ethics include:
- Representing your interests with undivided loyalty
- Keep your information and case progress 100% confidential
- Always representing you within the bounds of the law
- Always placing your interests ahead of their own
A lawyer disciplinary agency enforces these rules from state-to-state across the U.S. If any of these ethical guidelines are blurred, monetary fines, lawyer suspension, or attorney disbarment is imposed.
5. A Clear Outline of Legal Fees
Overpriced and inflated legal fees are one of the most common complaints by many legal clients. When you first hire an attorney, it’s imperative that you fully understand the breakdown of legal fees you could be faced with.
Make sure that your fee agreement is in writing before you commence with any legal aid and that you fully understand the agreement.
Keep these common legal fee complaints in mind before you settle with an attorney:
- An excessively high legal bill which is not something you agreed to
- A non-itemized legal bill which fails to outline exactly what you’re paying for
- A poor case outcome and an unjustified or excessive legal bill
- A bill which has been charged at an attorney rate when a paralegal worked on the case
- Inflated costs for quick phone calls and other minor services
Some states such as California require a written retainer agreement which clearly outlines an attorney’s billing system. If your state does not require this, there’s nothing wrong with insisting on one before legal aid begins.
Make sure that your retainer agreement clearly outlines all legal fees in an itemized statement. This way it’s easy to track and understand what you’re paying for.
If you’ve agreed on a contingency fee, be sure you understand how this fee is calculated.
Get Your Life Back-on-Track
Now that you know a little more on what to expect when it comes time to hire an attorney, brush up on your legal and lifestyle advice with us.
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